24 Jun 2016 14:37 UTCFri 24 Jun 2016 - 2:37 pm UTC
In the 1960s there was a fad for seeing how many live goldfish a person could swallow in one minute. The number was ridiculously high - approaching 200 if my memory serves me well. But it's a different fad that I'm interested in.
There was a fad in the 1960s to see how quickly a team could demolish an upright piano. Several people took to the piano with axes, and were required to reduce the piano to small enough pieces that they could pass all of it through a hole of diameter six inches (or was it four inches?). The times very very short - of the order of four minutes perhaps.
I would like to know what the rules were for this type of competition. In particular, did the piano include its innards, or was it just the timber frame. Was it strung? Was it tuned (i.e. were the strings under their usual tension)?
If a video is available of one of these piano demolitions, that would be tipworthy!
PS: I already checked the Wikipedia "Unusual Articles" page:
24 Jun 2016 15:32 UTCFri 24 Jun 2016 - 3:32 pm UTC
At 1:04:40...looks like the entire piano has to go!
Lots of odd fads here, but oddly, no goldfish.
Hopefully, someone will find the official rules for ya. I just wanted to check out the video.
24 Jun 2016 16:19 UTCFri 24 Jun 2016 - 4:19 pm UTC
Does this help to answer your question? I couldn't find much more!
Bashing the Ivories
Reduction of Pianos Is New College Fad - The Stanford Daily, Volume 143, Issue 21, 5 March 1963 PDF
The art of piano reduction, in its modern form, is intended to foster more fundamental undergraduate investigation of the detailed basic structure of the upright piano, and its relation to other similar devices of modern technology which may bo subject to reduction in the future. So begins a tract sent out by the Reduction Study Group of Cal Tech, an organization dedicated to the propagation of this newest collegiate art destined to replace phone-booth stuffing and perhaps even parity raids. The term ‘reduce,’ as adopted by the R.S.G., is nearly synonomous with dismantle, demolish, or rend. The object of Piano Reduction is, of course, to reduce the piano -in the shortest possible time, and such a state that it may be passed through an aperture of 20 cm. (about 8 in.) in diameter. In addition to scientific, educational, and cultural usefulness, this valuable activity possesses usefulness in that it promotes psychological catharsis. The above summarizes the rules and aims of the activity, which allows the use of various hand tools such as sledge hammers, knives, and hand grenades in the attempt to shove the various "reduced" particles through a small hole in the shortest possible time. The sport was started at Britain’s Derby College of Technology, where the best time was 14 min. 3 sec., but Cal Tech’s R.S.G. bested the effort with a time of 10 min, 44.4 sec. The newest record has been set by Detroit’s Wayne State University, 4 min. 51 sec.
Any undergraduates interested in forming a reduction team may read the R.S.G.’s publication in the Daily Shack, which outlines all the rules and regulations for official competition.
PIANO WRECKING (1963)
As part of his nightclub act in the 1930s, Jimmy Durante would play a few songs on a piano - then slowly rip it apart with his bare bands and throw the chunks out into the audience. It was a bizarre bit of performance art, and the audience loved it. More than three decades after Durante did it, wrecking pianos became a fad in the engineering department at Derby College of Technology in England. Six-man teams used tools such as axes, sledgehammers, and crowbars to break a piano into pieces so tiny that they could be passed through a 20-cm hole (that’s a little less than eight inches), competing to see who could do it fastest. The fad spread to Cal Tech in Pasadena, California, where the Piano Reduction Study Group deconstructed a piano in just 10 minutes, 44 seconds. Engineering students at Wayne State University in Detroit beat that record with a time of 4 minutes, 51 seconds. But why wreck a piano into tiny bits? Like earlier weird college fads like phone-booth stuffing or goldfish swallowing, it was probably to blow off steam incurred from the rigors of academia. Or, as Robert Diller of Cal Tech told Time in 1963, "It has psychological implications which are pretty clear to us. It’s a satire on the obso- lescence of today’s society." The fad died out by the mid-’60s, replaced with a far more pressing college pastime: protesting the Vietnam War.
24 Jun 2016 20:41 UTCFri 24 Jun 2016 - 8:41 pm UTC
Ha ha! "...parity raids"
Sounds so politically correct.
24 Jun 2016 21:54 UTCFri 24 Jun 2016 - 9:54 pm UTC
Thanks JD, that gives me enough detail, you can mark it as answered. I had not found the search term "piano reduction" when I was looking.
David, that film is fantastic. I was at university from 1976, at the tail end of the period when it was still fun. I couldn't get sound to play, did you get sound or is it silent? I will post a followup question for your attention to compensate for finding the video.
I am currently dismantling an old piano, but less violently and into individual pieces (of which there are more than three thousand).
24 Jun 2016 22:18 UTCFri 24 Jun 2016 - 10:18 pm UTC
Glad I could help with this fun question!